College freshman year is a time of many changes — new school, new friends, new classes and new freedoms. For some students, the transition to college life often means more stress and poorer eating habits — which can lead to weight gain.
The good news is that the “Freshman 15” is a bit of an exaggeration, according to Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences. “Several studies within the last few years show that not everyone gains weight during their freshman year — some people actually lose weight or stay the same. For those who do gain weight, the average is closer to five pounds, instead of 15.” However, if you gain five pounds each year, it does add up. Try discussing a few of these tips from Penn State with your child:
* Be aware of the buffets. Many dining commons provide buffet-style, “all you care to eat” service and research indicates that if you put food in front of someone, they’re probably going to eat it. Suggest that they limit the volume they’re eating. If, after 20 minutes, they are still hungry, they can always go back for more. Or better yet, share that dessert.
* Increase physical activity. After sitting in class for two hours, it’s important to suggest walking breaks, even if it’s three 10-minute walking breaks a day. Join the gym. Sports burn lots of calories.
* Be aware of stress levels. For many people, food provides comfort. In a new environment — which can be stressful — people often turn to comfort as a way to cope. Many comfort foods, although delicious, tend to be loaded with sugar or fats, which are the enemy of weight loss. Suggest fruits and vegetables that are crunchy to munch on. Most dorm rooms have refrigerators to keep them at hand.
* When getting ready to pack a care package, fill the box with dried snacks like soy chips, canned three-bean salads, canned hummus, pre-packaged nuts and whole grain crackers. Round the meal out with applesauce and other pre-packaged fruit cups just in case they miss dinner. If candy is their favorite, pick smaller amounts of chocolate and skip the sugary favorites. Candy with a bit of fat will help concentration more than a simple carbohydrate like gummies, sugary cookies and marshmallow type candies.
Here is a recipe to include in a healthy care package for those late night munchies.
Whole Grain Trail Mix
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup whole grain crunchy cereal
1/4 cup whole almonds
Mix together and place in pint size individual servings.